waves at sunsetMany of our children have had at least one encounter with what I call a toxic teacher. If your child never had one, count your blessings. These are the teachers who not only fail to help our children thrive, but can actually cause harm. I wrote about the toxic teacher my son had in third grade. It was a horrible experience for my son – and for me. Some toxic teachers are more toxic than others, but regardless of the level of toxicity, they all have something in common – they can stifle a child’s curiosity and sense of wonder.

My good friend, Eunice Madison, wrote a touching poem about her son’s experience with his third grade teacher. (What is it about third grade?) She wrote it back in 1986 after a frustrating encounter with the teacher’s inflexibility and rigid adherence to “rules.” The class was supposed to circle vowels and make a box around consonants, among other things. You may know the drill. Her son drew two straight lines on either side of the consonants. You see in his mind, the lines he drew connected with the horizontal lines of the writing paper to form boxes. Nope. Not good enough. Rules are rules!

Here is the poem she wrote. You may be able to relate.

SCHOOL DAZE…
By Eunice Madison

At four you told me
“I can count to TEN!”
We celebrated
By going fishing.
“School starts soon,” I said.

“You can learn to read,

And maybe count to one thousand.”
You are inattentive, weary
Of sentry duty over the fishpole.
Spotting a stick “Like a Y”
You prop up the pole.

We follow the shore home,
Watching the lake.
The silence I treasure
Strains your lively ear.
Your thoughts whisper to each other
Like rising and falling musical notes.
“I can ask,” you say,
“Why wind moves water. “
“Great idea,”
“Then we will both know.”
I think I will love this day
More than many others.

Enter the teacher.
Smile bright like yours,
Her voice as brittle as her hair.
She knows the words to read,
And circle,
And underline.
Circle the vowels.
Make a box
Around the consonants.
“He did not finish the box,” the note begins.
Bewildered, we show her how
The paper’s lines – already there,
Make tops and Bottoms.

“But he must learn the rules!!”
It is amazing how a pen
Powered by thoughts dry as dust
Spills so much blood…
Red becomes a vicious color.
The boy is right, but I sigh,
“Make the box anyway.”
I hate the sight of blood….
Today I hate my own voice.

You are tired too, and soon
Spiraling thoughts straighten
Along with your underlining.
Becoming flat. Like the perfect form
Of your one dimensional circles.
You Pledge Allegiance,
And Bless America,
And the door to your discordant inner voice
Closes with a death-like thud.
In this safety-inspected, teacher respected
Windowless room, no one wonders
Why wind moves water.

Carol BainbridgeEducationFor ParentsProblems at School,Underachievement
Many of our children have had at least one encounter with what I call a toxic teacher. If your child never had one, count your blessings. These are the teachers who not only fail to help our children thrive, but can actually cause harm. I wrote about the toxic...